Mr. Movie

'The Express' drags down compelling football story

In prose, the tragic story of Ernie Davis is inspiring.

A biopic covering his life leaves much to be desired.

Following in the footsteps of football great Jim Brown, Davis led the Syracuse Orangemen to a national title in 1959 and was the MVP of the Cotton Bowl that same year.

In 1961, Davis was the first African-American to win college football’s coveted Heisman Trophy. His accomplishment made a statement as powerful as the non-violent boycotts and protests in the streets.

Davis paved the way for more accolades for the nation’s growing African-American athletic population.The dilemma of movies such as The Express or Glory Road or others about sports heroes that also make statements on social injustice is that they have to do a fair number of scenes involving sports.

The football scenes in The Express are stock stuff. Rob Brown’s (Finding Forrester) Davis dodges tacklers in cut and edited slow-motion and then leaps in even slower-motion over nearly immobile bodies in choreographed plays.

Dramatic passing sequences show the football in the air, then cut to Brown running down field, cut back to the ball, cut to the coach, then to Brown, then to the ball, cut back to the coach, then the fans, then to Brown. The ball is in the air 45 seconds to a minute, and it’s boring.

Ultimately, so is this movie.

A deeper and more meaningful dip in the direction of seeking social justice can cause a movie to fall into the same formula trap as a sports flick. Winning the Heisman, the national title, quiet courage and a brilliant career cut short because of leukemia is a real life drama with incredible movie potential.

Unfortunately, The Express turns it to sap.

Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself